Pictures by Mecha Morton
An invitation to “shop and bop all day”, St John’s Street in Bury hosts its Summer Festival this month. As they prepare to party, Alice Ryan meets the retailers.
Rosie Hunter, Vinyl Hunter
It’s five years since St John’s Street last held a Summer Festival, but it’s going to be worth the wait: we’ve got street food, live music, live theatre, rickshaw rides. . . It’s going to be the best yet.
The festival is a celebration of the street, which is a really special place. It’s got an amazing history - the church spire, which is 170ft tall, is famously one of the tallest in the country - and it’s home to more than 70 independents: how many streets can say that these days?
I’ve had this shop for 25 years and ran it as an interior design business before Will took over, creating Vinyl Hunter, four years ago. I can’t imagine not being part of the street now.
I have to say thank you to Bury BID and our local councillors Kevin Hind and Julia Wakelam, whose support has made the Summer Festival happen. It’s going to be a great day and we couldn’t have done it without them.
Will Hunter, Vinyl Hunter
Vinyl is having a real renaissance. I think people finally got bored of listening to music on their phones, honestly; the sound experience is totally different with vinyl.
You don’t have to be a vinyl geek to come in here: if you’re interested in music, come and see us! Our customers range in age from 5 to 95. We’ve got a coffee bar and there’s always someone here to chat to.
Chloe Hailstone, Mick’s Cycles
When my grandfather started the business, back in 1970, it sold mopeds. My dad then took over in the 1980s, and it became a cycling shop in 1991. I joined in 2012; I actually did a course in childcare at college, but that was a back-up plan as I always wanted to join the family business.
I do have several bikes of my own, yes, including a Whyte mountain bike and a Merida road bike! We stock some really brilliant brands. The Whyte mountain bikes are among our best-sellers, along with the Frog lightweight kids bikes. The best thing about the job is definitely being able to find just the right thing for a customer - that’s job satisfaction.
Bury is famous for its independent shops: more than 50 per cent of the retailers in the town centre are independents, which is pretty impressive.
Michaela Organ, Copeland Interiors
I joined Copeland as an interior design consultant in November, but I actually started working on St John’s Street way back when I was 16 - across the road at Escape Hairdressing, where my sister still works. In fact she was the one who told me that Clare, who runs Copeland, was hiring.
Whatever your interior design needs - whether you want a roll of paper, a can of paint or to redesign your whole house - we can help. We stock lots of iconic brands and support small independents, too, so you’ll find things here that you won’t see elsewhere.
Copeland has been running continuously on this site since 1881; it’s definitely a fixture on St John’s Street.
Nicola Richmond, The Bay Tree Cafe
Bay Tree has been on St John's Street since 2001. We took the cafe over in 2010, bringing with us our own ideas, experiences and flavours and have been rewarded with a wonderful local following. We are proud to support St John's Street by buying our meat, fresh vegetables and beer from our neighbours.
Mark, my husband and fabulous chef, makes nearly everything by hand. His carrot cake and millionaire's shortbread are second to none! His hot club roll - with roast chicken, streaky bacon, chipotle mayo and salad - is one of this year’s signature dishes and customers tell us that they travel from miles around to enjoy our cooked breakfasts.
We love St John's Street. Its vibrant and diverse range of shops are an amazing asset to the local community. Long may it continue!
Tony Strowger, Jewellery by Tony Strowger
We moved the business to Bury from Haverhill in 2014 because we’d always liked the town. With all the independents on the street, this was the perfect location for us.
I’ve been in the jewellery business for 43 years and worked in South Africa and the States before setting up back here. I love designing pieces; that’s a big part of the reward for me. At the moment we’re doing a lot of remodelling, turning old family pieces into more wearable, modern ones - I’ve just turned a five-diamond brooch into studs and a pendant. Bespoke designed and handmade engagement and wedding rings are also a firm favourite with customers.
Nine times out of 10, men don’t like coming into a jewellery shop. When I see them walk out, a smile on their face because they’ve found just the right thing, it’s brilliant.
Adrian Taylor, Pocket Watch & Petticoats
It all began about five years ago, when my wife Sophia started dressing in 1950s-style clothes. She just loved the fit and feel - and she wanted to give other ladies that experience. For more curvaceous ladies, in particular, our dresses are brilliant: they fit in all the right places!
We opened our Ipswich store four years ago and followed it with the Bury store three years ago. Opening on St John’s Street was the best thing we ever did: the customers are brilliant and so are the other retailers. To have so many independents in one place is something special.
Without doubt, the swing dresses - with the big, full skirts - are our best-sellers: we sell 95 per cent swing-style, 5 per cent wiggle. Ladies can be a bit shy about trying on the net skirts to start with, but once they’re on, they can’t help twirling.
Seeing ladies leave the shop feeling a million dollars is definitely the highlight. That’s the lovely thing about shopping somewhere like this: you get one-to-one customer service.
Paul Brown, Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing
I started the business in 2010, making all the shirts myself in my parents’ garage, then opened the factory in Brandon two years later. All our shirts are made here in Suffolk; not many brands can say that.
We opened this shop in 2017 and St John’s Street was the obvious choice: it’s the best street in Bury. It’s a traditional high street, where you can buy absolutely anything and everyone says hello.
It’s the little details - like the contrast collars and cuffs - that mark our shirts out, I think, as well as the quality of the tailoring. We get a lot of returning customers which is lovely; you really get to know them.
Jo Gregor, Sunrise
Sunrise started 30 years ago with a stall on Bury market, selling rugs and ceramics and cushions, but now we have a real mix - something for everyone. The incense, jewellery and Fair Trade clothing are really popular.
The Summer Festival is going to be brilliant: there’s a real party atmosphere. That’s the lovely thing about the retailers on St John’s Street - everyone gets involved. It’s a bit like a family; we all look out for each other.
René van den Oort, Beautiful Beers
I’ve worked on St John’s Street for a long time, first running The Bay Tree and then, when I sold it to Nicola and Mark, setting up Beautiful Beers in 2011. It was inspired by The Bay Tree, actually, as we used to sell Belgian beers there and people loved them.
As well as the Belgian beers, we stock craft beers, too, including local ones, like Old Cannon’s Blonde Bombshell, brewed right here in Bury, and Elmtree’s Top of the Hop, an IPA from Snetterton in Norfolk.
We currently stock somewhere between 450 and 500 different beers; over the eight years, we’ve stocked probably 3,000. I get to spend my days talking to people about beer. It’s not really work, is it?
The St John’s Street Summer Festival takes place on Saturday, June 15. From 10am until 5pm, visitors can look forward to live music and theatre, rickshaw rides, children’s activities (hosted by Just Traid in the church), family-friendly entertainment (don’t miss the Chinese lions) and street food (including traditional Caribbean dishes for veggies and vegans) and drink (including gin, beer and wine tastings and the chance to make your own smoothie). Plus Bury Society will be running historical street tours, Radio RWSfm will be broadcasting live and the shops will be running their own special events.